Source: Cleveland.com/Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial
September 15, 2017
Drug companies are quickly becoming public enemies in this country -- witness the understandable uproar over the outrageous price hikes on the life-saving anti-allergic EpiPen, which soared from $100 in 2009 to as much as $600, prompting U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio to look into the matter.
So it's no wonder that Issue 2, a citizen-initiated drug-pricing statute proposed on the statewide ballot for Nov. 7, seems like just the thing to reduce drug prices. After a loss in California in 2016, opponents and supporters are spending tens of millions of dollars on advertisements to sway Ohio voters to their side. It would be the first such law in the nation.
Let's put aside the dog whistles about both controversial AIDS Healthcare Foundation CEO Michael Weinstein, the ballot's key supporter, and Big Pharma being heard on both sides. The Drug Price Relief Act, despite its name, would be a massive headache -- unworkable, litigation-prone and frustrating.
While prices for life-saving drugs should be far more reasonable -- an issue that the U.S. Congress ought to make a top priority -- this is simply not the vehicle to do it. Voters must reject Issue 2.
According to the ballot issue, Issue 2 would mandate the state of Ohio pay the same or less for prescription drugs as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Supporters say that the act would cut drug prices by 24 percent for anyone who gets drugs through state agencies, including employees and those on Medicaid. However, there is some disagreement about whether Issue 2 would apply to retirees, one of many unclear provisions that could lead to a lawsuit.
It would not apply to those with private health insurance or who are on Medicare.
However, the act is based on the faulty premise that the VA's drug prices are transparent. They are not.
While drug manufacturers have to give the VA a 20 percent to 24 percent discount on medicines by law, the VA also wisely negotiates deeper discounts, some of which, maybe a large number of which, are not made public. That makes it nearly impossible to determine the VA's lowest price to follow suit.
Opponents of the act, which include hospitals, veterans, and of course, drug companies, also point out that the state already negotiates discounts and rebates, some of which are not disclosed.
But let's be absolutely clear: The ballot issue's aims have merit. We feel confident that the drug discounts Ohio gets from drug companies impact only the thinnest slice of Big Pharma profits. Why else would pharmaceutical companies pour millions into the fight to defeat this statute, as they did in California?
The ballot issue, which would create a new state law but would not be a constitutional amendment, would also require the state to pay for litigation if supporters need to defend "the act's validity in any court of a law, including on appeal," according to the proposal. That's an expense that Ohio can't afford.
Rejecting this troubling, poorly drafted ballot issue doesn't mean that we support the drug industry's often arbitrary sky-high drug pricing.
We categorically do not. Drug companies ought to be reined in. But passing a statute that is impractical, litigation-prone and that's likely to do little to address the problem of overpriced drugs isn't the answer. That's why Issue 2 is a problem, not a cure.
We urge Ohio voters to say "No" to Issue 2 on the Nov. 7 ballot.
July 23, 2017 - Columbus Dispatch Editorial: Drug-Price Measure Carries Terrible Side Effects
Sept. 7, 2017 - Akron Beacon Journal editorial board: What Would Issue 2 Save? It's Sketchy